Jim Schroeder with his wife, Joan, celebrates at his awards luncheon, held Jan. 12, 2013, Cumberland Mountain State Park in Cumberland County, Tenn. (Photo submitted)
A wife’s sage advice inspired a Murfreesboro man to become a leading hiking trail designer and builder in Tennessee.
When Jim Schroeder’s wife, Joan, told him to “take a hike,” he did just that.
The year was 1994 and Jim was recovering from a heart attack, followed by quadruple by-pass surgery, when Joan Shcroeder encouraged him to follow his doctor’s advice to get out and walk by referring him to the Murfreesboro Chapter of the Tennessee Trails Association.
The statewide hiking organization Joan Schroeder had seen mentioned in a Murfreesboro newspaper also participates in trail building and maintenance, activities not yet apparent to the Schroeder family when he first joined.
Right away Jim Shroeder said he found that he enjoyed getting out in nature to hike with like-minded individuals, as he gradually rebuilt his strength and stamina for longer and more difficult treks. His doctors were pleased with his overall condition and especially his improved heart function.
As Jim Schroeder became stronger and increasingly fit, he began to volunteer to help with trail maintenance and trail building.
One thing led to another for this retired engineer.
Applying principles adapted from his former profession, Jim Schroeder demonstrated an outstanding ability to plan and lay out trails.
This has become a passion for Jim Schroeder, whether he is working on his beloved Cumberland Trail, a state natural area or a city park.
In fact, he designed and laid out the popular trails in the Barfield-Crescent Park in Murfreesboro, as well as many others in Middle Tennessee.
One of his recent accomplishments was to find a feasible connecting route through Chattanooga for the multistate Great Eastern Trail, which will connect to the Cumberland Trail at Signal Mountain. There will be a commemorative sign with his name at the junction of the two trails.
The nonprofit Tennessee Trails Association is the parent organization of the Cumberland Trail Conference, which is responsible for the building of the more than 300-mile Cumberland Trail, the hiking trail corridor of the linear Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park.
When fully completed, this trail will run from Signal Mountain at Chattanooga to the Cumberland Gap at the Tennessee-Kentucky State Line.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, this talented but unpretentious man was honored Jan. 12 with a surprise luncheon and awards ceremony at Cumberland Mountain State Park, following a board meeting of the Cumberland Trail Conference.
Joan Schroeder sat proudly beside him. His close friend, hiking buddy and trail working companion, Martin McCullough, also of Murfreesboro, was seated nearby.
There were three separate awards presented.
The first was his election to the newly formed Cumberland Trail Conference Hall of Fame as the first honoree.
The second was a certificate of recognition by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield for his routing of the Great Eastern Trail though that city and community.
The third was from the Great Eastern Trail Association for his outstanding support.
Of course, there was also a large birthday cake decorated with a hiking trail motif.
Jim Schroeder, who has since undergone knee surgery, said he had planned to be back on the trail in time for the spring BreakAway program, but due to respiratory complications his return will be delayed a few weeks.
BreakAway is a five- or six-week alternative spring break program for building trail for college students that is sponsored by the Cumberland Trail Conference.
Jim has taken part in 14 of the 15 years of BreakAway since he joined, mentoring young people and teaching them good trail building techniques.
For more information about the Murfreesboro Chapter of the Tennessee Trails Association send an e-mail to Murfreesboro@tennesseetrails.org. The state website is located at www.tennesseetrails.org.